Last month, Jim and I put our oldest on a plane to South America for a semester studying abroad. Bailey and I are pretty close considering his age and gender and I will miss him as much in my capacity as his friend as I will as his mom, but don’t tell his friends that. It would be totally not cool which probably isn’t the “in” way to say that. Saying goodbye for five months was not easy, but frankIy, I have been surprised that it wasn’t harder. Sitting at the gate, waiting for him to board, I clearly heard God speak to my tear-clenched heart and I hope that what He said will influence the way I parent forever.
When Bailey was conceived, God placed Him right where he needed to be, buried deep inside my body where he could grow and be nurtured until he was ready to hatch. When he was physically ready to meet the world, it would have been unhealthy, not to mention more than a little uncomfortable, for him to have stayed longer. He had outgrown my body. In fact, when he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he very easily could have died. His connection to me was literally killing him. See where I am going with this?
Once our children leave the relative comfort and safety of our bodies, they obviously still need us. We feed them and watch over them. We teach them little lessons like how not to poop in their pants and why the Beatles are the greatest rock band ever. And not so little lessons like who God is and what His plan for our lives is.
Since Bailey left, I have realized that Jim and I are in a new phase of parenting. One that involves a lot of protection and guidance but, thankfully, less bottom wiping. One that involves a lot more letting go and standing back. In a way, it is a death of sorts, the ending of one thing and the beginning of something new. The way I described it to a friend is that the boy must die so that the man must live. And this process of death and life, of metamorphosis from one stage of life to another isn’t something that should make me sad. It should be something to rejoice in. It’s the miracle I have been working toward since each of my kids first drew breath.
Since I started this post, I have had cause to regret its title. On his first day of school in Bolivia, Bailey, who is allergic to peanuts, chowed down some carrots in peanut sauce and end up in the hospital. I had anticipated the day being a challenging one, but more in the will-someone-sit-with-him-at-lunch kind of way not in the trouble-breathing-anaphylactic-shock kind of way.
As I tried not to panic, listening to the hoarse and groggy voice of my son coming from so many miles away, I had to ask myself “Who do I think Bailey belongs to?” God had told me to let go and it didn’t seem too hard a thing to do when he was healthy and safe and allergen-free. It’s easy to say “let the boy die” when it is just a metaphor for “let the boy grow up and get and job, do his own laundry and pay his own cell phone bill.” But what about when it means “let the boy make mistakes and suffer the consequences and experience pain and not have you to comfort him”?
My only comfort on the days when things don’t go well for my kids, or really my only comfort on any day is in remembering another son. It comes from remembering and trusting in the story about a son who had to leave his home and His Father. Who had to grow and learn and suffer on his own. The story that brings me such joy brought God a great deal of sorrow. In that story, the man died so that we all might live. Now it’s just up to me to believe it’s true and be brave enough to live accordingly.